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CONTENTS OF NO. LVI.
I. Letter to the Marquess of Lansdown, on the Affairs of Portugal
armed with Power, to the Portuguese
II. Brief Reflections and Suggestions regarding several subjects iv-
of his Letter to the Electors of Bridgenorth. (Original.]
VIII. Observations on the Power exercised by the Court of Chancery
MAGISTRATES OF ENGLAND
INCREASE OF CRIME;
AND AN EFFICIENT REMEDY SUGGESTED FOR THEIR
BY SIR EARDLEY EARDLEY WILMOT, BART.
F.R.S. F.L.S. AND F.S.A.
One of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the County of Warwick.
Nemo repente fuit turpissimus.
SECOND EDITION, WITH CORRECTIONS.
GENTLEMEN, It is now seven years since I first addressed the public on the Increase of Crime, and particularly among juvenile offenders. I pointed out what I humbly conceived to be the chief cause of this spreading evil; and I suggested a remedy wbich I believed would have had a great and immediate effect. I predicted, that crime would increase notwithstanding the improvements which the legislature, either in theory or practice, should enact; and I asserted, that the spot where a wise man would attempt to diminish the force of a torrent, was not at its confluence with the
but where its spring first bubbled in quiet and concealment.
The Middlesex jury baving lately noticed the great increase of juvenile delinquency, and having expressed an opinion, “ that the law of Petty Larceny should be revised, and that the magistrates should be enabled to proceed in a summary way against such cffenders," has induced me once again to trespass on the public tion ; and though I pretend not to that weight and influence which should make my opinion the guide of legislative enactments, yet having tried, during the last seven years only, above two thousand criminals for petty offences, in a county where the commitments equal those of any other county in England, I trust I do not presume too much, when I say that my experience is intitled to some attention.
It has long been my conviction, that notwithstanding the good which prison-discipline, penitentiary asylums, and other philanVOL. XXIX.
thropic institutions have produced, yet as the most efficient and primary cause of the evil remained untouched, crime would increase in defiance of the enactments of the legislature, or the exertions of the philanthropist. It is undeniable, that an increase of population, the demoralising tendency of the poor-laws, the want of employment, the low price of labor, and though last not least, the inefficiency of the game-laws, have each contributed to swell the catalogue of offenders. There are other causes also which operate more or less in promoting the increase of crime, but which the natural wickedness of man will always create, and which the inefficacy of all human enactments cannot wholly prevent. But all these, powerful as they are, are only auxiliary causes, which have existed, and will continue to do so, so long as human nature is unchanged, and human enactments are imperfect. They may be efficient causes of the continuance of crime ; but cannot sufficiently account for that rapid increase of depravity, which within these few years has more than tripled the annual commitments throughout the kingdom.
Before I enter into what I conceive to be the primary cause of this dreadful evil, or suggest the remedy most likely to counteract it, I will say a few words on those collateral and auxiliary causes, to which so much more weight is given than they really merit; and which, however powerful in their respective degrees, yet can by no means account for the enormous increase of crime attributed to them,
There can be no doubt but that an increased population must necessarily add to the number of those who offend against the laws; and if from natural or artificial means the population should suffer temporary or permanent distress, temptation to crime will become strong and irresistible. The very prosperity of a nation, by introducing luxury and dissipation, must also introduce a laxity of morals, and must strengthen, by the facility of gratification, every dormant inclination to vice. The arts, sciences, and commerce, extend to such distant regions, and require such complicated safeguards to protect and encourage them, that offences are created by the very progress of improvement; and thus the victims, which the offended laws of our country demand for the security of the public, are annually sacrificed without pity, and almost without notice on the altars of public safety.
The poor-laws are another auxiliary to the increase of crime, aggravated chiefly by their abuse, and, by applying them to a purpose for which they never were intended. Instead of raising the wages of labor to the increased price of subsistence, the deficiency is made up out of the parish-rates; and thus the degradation of the moral feeling of the Jaborer inevitably attends the vicious